Association of Telehealth Service Providers releases report chronicling industry growth and telemedicine development

Portland 01 May 2000The Association of Telehealth Service Providers (ATSP) has recently issued for the third time in a row its annual telemedicine report. The ATSP's


1999 Report on United States Telemedicine Activity is the result of a fruitful collaboration with the Telemedicine Today Magazine and the Telemedicine Research Center, where the authors are based. These report writers have collected industry- and programme-level data on both telemedicine and telehealth from the clinical providers' perspective. In this third year, 132 telehealth networks have responded, representing over 1500 telemedicine-equipped facilities in forty-eight states, and reporting over no less than 52.000 teleconsultations in 1998. For 1999, the total number of projected consultations is more than 74.000.

The 1999 ATSP Report is a desktop reference for professionals whose work brings them in contact with the telehealth industry, including health care providers, hospital administrators, legislators and policy makers, attorneys, health services researchers, and those in home health agencies, medical schools, government agencies, insurance companies and e-health firms. Designed as a reference guide, this report includes an index, eight appendices, more than 90 tables and figures, 45 pages of interpretation and analysis, and an executive summary.

Feedback from readers suggests the report is used to identify new market opportunities and potential collaborators, provide industry benchmarks, assist in grant writing, anticipate future industry trends, and also enlighten telemedicine-related policy making and legislative processes. The principal trends in the report involve four main items, which are patient utilisation, extensive educational use of telemedicine systems, the user diversification, and the evolving relationship between e-health and telemedicine.

The continued growth in patient utilisation seems to be coupled with uneven distribution. Average teleconsults per network increased 35% from 1997-98, and first quarter 1999 projections suggest increased growth. Yet growth is uneven across the different states, of which Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, California and Kansas reported most activity; across the medical specialities, in which mental health, dermatology, cardiology, orthopaedics, and neurology are most used; and network types, where prison telemedicine comprised 30% of 1998 activity.

Clinically, fifty-three specialities and subspecialities were reported, covering over thirty health care services. While the demand is highest for the access to specialists, use of other services including chronic disease management, rehabilitation, and diagnostic examination interpretation increased. In the organisational domain, 85 respondents were either based in academic medical centres or health care networks. The other 47 were spread among 12 different organisation types, including private companies, state agencies, and the military. Technologically, interactive video is applied more often in combination with asynchronous and audiographic technologies. Portability and low-bandwidth are increasingly important.

It is still unclear how telemedicine and e-health will converge in the future. The authors suggest that the complex, regulated patient care component of e-health or telehealth will develop more slowly than commercial, consumer information or business-to-business applications. Telemedicine's prominence was partly a government response to urban biases in health care markets, and government's role will remain the key to telemedicine's ability to reach under-served populations. E-health may become more market-driven, but developments in the telehealth sector will warrant close observation.

The ATSP is a business-oriented trade association which has been promoting sustainable telehealth initiatives through advocacy, education and research since 1996. Authors of the report are Bill Grigsby, Ph.D., and Nancy Brown, MLS. They are located at the Telemedicine Research Center, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, as a non-profit organisation with six years' experience in performing telemedicine research. The 1999 ATSP Report is available for $300 to non-ATSP members and $75 to members and survey participants. To order the report, you can visit the freshly restyled Web site of the Association of Telehealth Service Providers or contact the ATSP at +1-800-852-3591 or +1-503-222-2406.

Leslie Versweyveld

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